The early F-types I was referring to were very clearly female, being observed 
by my grad student who was working on them for his disseration. They had begun 
twittering, cattail to cattail by March.  Their marsh was all unfrozen.  We 
were starting to wonder if they would actually build nests in March.  Typically 
older females come back before younger ones.  I suppose they could confuse by 
having salmon color in their heads, but their body feathers are not dark.

As for universal “conversion” of males into certain males by February?  I 
wouldn’t count on there NOT being some very odd males still. 

As an old primate person, I think the banders' age designations are confusingly 
obfuscatory of critical differences.  Blackbirds here fledge from sometime in 
May to 15 July (or maybe later now).  That means that young males returning now 
in mid February range in age from 7 mos to 9 mos old.  This probably 
contributes to a big range in plumages for those young males.  But it isn’t 
hard to tell young “female-type” males  from young or old females.  Young 
females are very stripey, but not blackish-stripy and their heads are light;  
older females often will have salmon-orange color in their heads and are 
definitely not blackish in overtone.  In some years, some older females have 
distinct epaulets (an easy fall and winter??), but they are usually only 
visible in hand or during aggression.  So I would expect anyone seeing a very 
immature pliumage male would say something like “wow, that can’t be just a 
really dark female…but what IS it?”   And the feathers will be odd looking, 
because they include dark ones that young females don’t have.  I think I have 
some pictures from the last two years….


Anne B Clark
147 Hile School Rd
Freeville, NY 13068

> On Feb 20, 2020, at 4:12 PM, Suan Hsi Yong <> wrote:
> Anne Clark wrote:
> We had actual females back in a marsh near Binghamton/Endicott as early as 
> February.  Usually females did not show up until late march.  I don’t mean 
> nest, just be seen in flocks and maybe visit the marsh.
> Will all second-year males have "turned" by February, or could these early 
> F-types be second year males?
> Suan
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